Kids Allowance: Teaching Money Management, Chores, and Responsibility
For a long time, I’ve been conflicted about the whole “kids allowance” thing. Should kids get money just because? Aren’t chores just part of being in a family and having responsibilities? My kids have always had chores and responsibilities, but I’ve used them as a way to earn privileges. That system has worked for a long time, and we can still use it, but after some discussion, my husband and I decided it was time to start giving our kids an allowance. Simply because we want them to learn how to manage money and take ownership of their “stuff”. Here’s how we’re doing it.
I’ve got 8 kids. My oldest is 22 and my youngest is 3. Needless to say, we’ve been doing the parenting thing for quite a while and I’ll be raising kids for quite a while still. 🙂 When our oldest left home, we wondered if we had taught him everything he needed to know. Regret is a funny thing… it makes you take a long hard look at how you’re doing things.
Does an Allowance Create Entitlement?
My husband and I have been talking about what we can do to better prepare our children for adulthood. We want them to earn money and save for college, learn how to take better care of their things, clean up after themselves, and not feel entitled to get whatever they want just because. And because we’ve never really given our kids an allowance, we feel like it’s time to change that.
After a long discussion, we came up with a new plan that would teach our kids how to budget, be responsible around the house (which they already have been), and make more decisions about their money. So we created this system that intertwines all of these elements. We had a family meeting and shared our idea with the kids. There were mixed reactions as we explained the idea we wanted to test out. But we talked through it, made some modifications and came up with the following plan that we started to implement in March of 2018. See the bottom of this post for periodic updates on how it’s working for us.
On the first day of every month, our kids are paid a monthly allowance (we call it their monthly salary). With this money they will pay for some of their food, their sports, their clothing, gifts for friends, sports camps, scout camps, fuel, and any other activities that they do on their own. As parents, we provide shelter, transportation, and some food.
The food we provide:
- breakfast: eggs or oatmeal
- lunch: stuff for sandwiches, fruit and veggies (here are some cold lunch ideas)
- dinner: a well balanced meal
- snacks: fruits/veggies
The food they can purchase with their allowance:
- snacks (chips, granola bars, fruit snacks…)
- treats (ice cream…)
- school lunches
We decided to pay each of our kids $.25 per day multiplied by their age. That means our 16 year old get’s $124 per month and our three year old gets $23.25 per month. Granted, a three year old isn’t going to get much out of this entire experiment. BUT she is the caboose in our family, and does not like to feel left out. So she got her own little envelope of cash too. She was thrilled.
How My Kids Earn Money (aka Chores):
Each child has three things they need to do every day. They are paid monthly based on the percentage of responsibilities they complete. Each day my child needs to:
- complete their kitchen job
- have a clean room (which includes a bed that is made)
- “leave no trace” (which means they need to clean up after themselves)
At the end of the month we count the number of completed squares and divide it by the number of available squares to get the percentage of completed work. Say they only did 75% of their chores, then they would only get 75% of their “salary”.
My 12 year old son cleans the kitchen in the morning before school. He unloads the dishwasher, loads the breakfast dishes, and wipes the counters.
In the afternoon, before dinner, my 8 and 9 year old daughter and son clear and wipe the counters and load the dishwasher, sweep the floor, and dump the kitchen trash if needed.
In the evening, my 14 year old son and 16 year old daughter alternate nights to clean the kitchen after dinner. This entails clearing and wiping counters, loading and starting the dishwasher, washing, drying and putting away pans. Putting away leftover food. Sweeping if needed, and cleaning out the sink.
A clean bedroom is defined as floors picked up, beds made, and laundry put away. Laundry falls into the clean room category because if their hamper is overflowing to their floor, their room is no longer clean. All my kids do their own laundry. I help my girls that are 3 and 8… but they still have to bring their hamper down and we load it into the washing machine and either I switch the laundry or they do it. When the laundry is done I help them fold and put it away. Everyone else is responsible to handle their own laundry. It needs to be done in the same day and put away in order for them to get their clean bedroom point that day.
“Leave No Trace”:
For many years, my kids would each have a separate section of the house that they were in charge of keeping clean for the week. Each Monday we would rotate sections of the house. While that helped keep the house clean for the most part, and our kids were learning how to clean up a room, our kids were NOT learning how to clean up after themselves. They just knew how to clean up after others.
Last summer we implemented the “leave no trace” requirement in our home. Just like the scouting program has a “leave no trace” merit badge, we have that requirement in our home. Throughout the day, during different transition points in the day, the kids are reminded to “leave no trace”…. before heading to school, before free time, and before dinner and/or bedtime. In the beginning, we got a lot of “I didn’t leave that out” or “I didn’t make that mess”. Overtime, this became less and less of an issue. When it does come up, I let the kids know that sometimes we all have to clean up “nobody’s mess” and we just work together to clean up the mess that nobody made.
Lest ye think I have perfect kids… I share this picture with you. This is after just one weekend of snow. The snow bucket came into the house and the hat and glove bucket got dumped everywhere too. This is an example of my kids NOT cleaning up after themselves. It happens plenty. I had to leave for a quick errand and came home to a clean mudroom. No one was asked to clean it, but my 12 year old (who enjoys order) decided to tackle it. While my kids have done better about cleaning up after themselves, they certainly aren’t perfect. They need a lot of reminders, but overall I things are improving and I know that they are capable of cleaning a room if they were asked to. 😀
Daily Tracking Sheet
I printed the “Habit Tracker” sheet from my Life Planner download (page 73 of the free download). It’s just one piece of paper and can easily hang in the pantry, on the fridge, or sit on the counter. It’s easier to have it all on just one paper. And it has 18 lines and 31 columns.
At the end of the day, some of the kids go through the checklist and mark off the boxes for each responsibility they completed that day. It’s only three boxes per day. Kitchen, bedroom, and leave no trace. Only having three check boxes each day makes it a lot less tedious to keep track of responsibilities. It also takes a bigger hit on their daily percentage. If they miss one of their chores, they only earned 66% of their pay that day. So let’s say my 16 year old only does 75% of her jobs, that means she will only get paid $93. She also has a part time job, but she has to pay for gas along with all her other expenses. So getting $30 less hurts.
It’s not hard for me to identify when this did NOT happen. I always know who didn’t do their kitchen job. And when I tuck them in at night I can see the condition of their bedrooms. I also see during the day whether or not they made their beds.
Pay Day and Shopping Day
We decided that the first day of every month would be pay day. The kids get the envelope of cash, pay their tithing, make their payments to mom and dad*, and then determine what they are going to do with the rest of the money. Then, together as a family, we head over to the store and the kids purchase what they want for breakfast, snacks, treats, toiletries, and clothing if needed.
Our first shopping trip was so fun. The older kids were more conscious of their spending and looking at the price per ounce. They thought twice about purchases and even put things back. While my 8 year old daughter purchased sugar cereal for herself, my 14 year old boy decided to purchase himself a non-sugar cereal because he knew he’d be hungry after an hour of eating sugar cereal. My 14 and 12 year old purchased larger boxes of some food and split it, because they were watching the price per ounce number. Everyone brought their own ice cream. And now, instead of having huge bowls of ice cream, they are more conscious of what they have and making it last longer.
After our shopping trip the kids came home and wrote their names on their groceries and found sections of the pantry to claim as theirs. So far we haven’t had any issues with people eating other peoples food without permission. And I’m not worried about that becoming an issue either.
*Because we just started this, the kids haven’t had time to budget and save for scout camp/sports that we have to pay for now. So us parents made the paid for the activities and the kids are now making monthly payments to us. They just have to have them paid off before the activity starts. In the future, if they need to borrow money, they will have to repay it with interest. I’d like them to learn the concept of interest at home, instead of when they are adults and the interest rates and penalties are much more substantial.
Budgeting for Kids Allowance
Between our 6 kids at home, we are spending nearly $500/mo on allowance. But I didn’t need to create extra income to come up with this $480. We just shifted the money from one budget category to another. My food bill is less now, because I’m no longer purchasing toiletries, cereal, snacks, ice cream… Our family spending budget moved over to the allowance budget.
The kids are making payments or saving up to pay the sports they want to do. One child who wanted to do two sports at a time decided to just do one since he didn’t want to pay for two (and let’s be honest folks… I was grateful!). Does that make sense? We simply shifted money around and decreased amounts in the grocery, clothing, gifts, and kids budget categories.
We’ve been at it for about two weeks now and so far it’s going good! For the first time in forever my 16 year old daughter made her bed! My 14 year old son has kept his room clean for nearly two weeks straight now! THIS is a miracle my friends!
The first pay day, we paid them 100% of their salary so they could see how far their money would go. As they start running out of food, they’ll know how to spend their food money next month. Today NO ONE ate cold cereal and opted for fried eggs instead. My 8 year old daughter is no longer having hot lunch every day. And my 9 year old son decided to only have hot lunch 1 time a week instead of the 3 times per week he was doing it before.
So it’s been neat to see them monitor themselves, be more aware of what they consume, and even handle money! Everyone likes this system… even my 12 year old who initially thought it was stupid and wouldn’t work. 🙂 He’s actually the very best at tracking and completing his responsibilities!
What do you think?
How would you do this differently? Any ideas of how I could make this work better? How do you teach your kids about money and responsibility?
Updates on How It’s Going for Us:
First month (March): the first few weeks were great. My 16 year old religiously made her bed every day and her room was notably tidier. Other kids did great for the first 2ish weeks. Then people started to forgot to track and they needed more reminders. Overall though, there was an improvement in keeping their responsibilities. If the dinner crew neglected their jobs, my morning crew would do them, but also get the extra points for doing double duty. At the end of the month my 12 year old scored a 105% on his tracking and made the most money out of everyone! Kids ages 14 and 16 got about 75% and the 8 year old struggled the most and only got 50%.
2nd Month (April): this was a great month because they felt the pain of getting less money as a result of their inconsistent efforts. My 8 year old was a little demotivated though, and we’re thinking we should change this slightly for her… maybe paying her weekly or every two weeks would be better? At the end of May, 10 -16 year olds got 86%ish of their monthly allowance. Improvement for the 14 and 16 year old and the 12 year old got less mostly because the night crew was actually doing their nightly responsibilities better. The 8 year old still struggled, but did better than the month before. We still haven’t moved to paying her more frequently though. She is doing better at getting her afternoon responsibilities done and keeping her room clean. Still not 100%, but improvement.
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